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*ENGL 1010: Finding, Evaluating, and Citing Sources*

It Really Does Matter

College writing requires a higher degree of quality and reliability from sources than high school or personal writing.  The information you use needs to be accurate, credible, reliable, and timely.  No longer can you do a Google search and use the first pages that you find that relate to your subject.  You need to use sources written by subject experts or those who have done quality research on the topic. 



It is a safe bet that anything from the following list is not appropriate for an essay in a college course.

  • Any site that sells essays or papers.  Even if they provide essays for free. 
  • Content from an elementary, middle, or high school website.  The information may be good, but you are in college now. 
  • Essays or blog entries from other college-level essays written by students.  Think about reliability and authority - you want information from subject experts.
  • Wikipedia.  ANYONE can create and edit content on Wikipedia.  It is difficult to determine whether editors know the content or have any qualifications, and there are people who edit entries maliciously with incorrect information. Sometimes the references on Wikipedia articles can lead you to sources that may be appropriate.  You can also use Wikipedia to get background information on a topic, helping you decide what direction to go with your research.

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating Sources

Evaluating sources involves thinking critically about what you read.  You cannot take for granted that anything you read or hear is true and accurate.  You have to consider who wrote it, why they wrote it, and often where it was published/presented. 

  • Does the author really have any claim to expertise on a subject? 
  • Are they presenting facts or opinions? 
  • Is the author or publication trying to persuade you to believe something or to purchase something?
  • Does the author display obvious bias or even prejudice? 
  • Is it in a serious publication, or is it satirical or humorous in nature?
  • What is the editorial process?  Can anyone post/publish anything they want, or does someone look at submissions first to determine if they meet standards and criteria? (Look at Scholarly vs. Popular for a further discussing of the editorial process in periodicals.) 
  • When was it written?  Information can go out of date.  Also, if it was written recently but contains out of date information, it is probably not a reliable source. 

Source Evaluation: Is This Source Any Good?

sjfclaverylibraryLavery Library - Source Evaluation: Is this information source any good? YouTube.


Keep in mind that your purpose for researching/writing will have an influence on how you evaluate your sources.  Consider the following scenarios:

  • If you are trying to decide what car to buy, it would make sense to look at blogs, forums, etc., where people discuss their opinion, especially of cars they have personally owned or driven.  However, if you are doing research for a paper in college, you will most likely need to have information presented by experts on the subject, not unknown people who just have an opinion on it. 
  • When writing about current events, you may look more to primary sources and reliable news reports than to scholarly analysis, since scholarly analysis takes more time, and the event may have occurred too recently.  
  • Research on medical, technological, and scientific topics will need to focus on more recent publications, since the information in these areas changes rapidly.  You wouldn't want to look at information published in the 1990s when doing research on cancer treatment, unless you are showing how it has changed since then.

Evaluating Internet Sources

Watch these brief videos to learn about evaluating Internet sources.


Evaluating Sources: What About The Internet & Websites?

sjfclaverylibrary. Lavery Library - Source Evaluation: What about The Internet & Websites. YouTube.



Evaluating Internet Resources

Boston College Libraries. Evaluating Internet Resources. YouTube.Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)


You can use several methods to evaluate the sources you find.  For any of them, you need to look at who wrote it, why it was written, when it was written, how accurate it is, and whether it is relevant to the topic you are researching. 

Following is a brief video on one method, as well as links to other resources on how to evaluate your sources. 


C.R.A.A.P. Test

The C.R.A.A.P. test is one method to help you evaluate your sources.  The following short video produced by the Johnson & Wales University Denver Campus Library will show you what it is and how you can use it.

jwdenver. Evaluating Information Using the CRAAP Test. YouTube. Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)


Other Links for Evaluating Sources

Stick figure person with a thought bubble containing a question mark